For the last few years, I’ve always meant to write my personal Top 10 Books of the year, but never managed to get around to it. Today all that changes (at last). In no particular order, here are the top 10 books I read in 2021.
- Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin (ed. John McNeill). In the interest of honesty, I should mention that I started this the year before, but it was well worth the multi-year effort. Ford Lewis Battles’ translation is wonderfully readable, and apart from an occasional digression into an uninteresting side battle, Calvin systematically unpacks Christian theology as well as anyone ever has.
- The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien. I read The Lord of the Rings in 2020, so it only made sense to follow that up with my first trip through the first age of Middle Earth. Tolkien’s phrases drip with beauty. This reads more like a history textbook than a novel, but you can still get lost in the haunting sublimity of the world he creates.
- Desiring the Kingdom, James K.A. Smith. The first in a trilogy, Smith makes his case for how much our habits shape our character (drawing on Augustine’s understanding of the heart/will). In doing so, he offers some course corrections to our worship practices.
- Reading the Bible Supernaturally, John Piper. The middle volume in a trilogy about the Word of God, Piper takes us through the theology and practice of reading the Bible as God’s Word. Grand in its vision, yet simple in its practice, a helpful read for any Christian.
- The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, Carl Trueman. In truth, this was my favorite read this year (as much as it pains me to say it when I’ve got the likes of Calvin and Tolkien on the list). A centuries-long tour through cataclysmic shifts in our culture’s understanding of selfhood. An absolute must-read for those trying to make sense of how we got where we are.
- Gentle and Lowly, Dane Ortlund. Wonderfully devotional look at the heart of Christ for his people. Will strengthen and encourage you wherever you are.
- Telling a Better Story, Joshua Chatraw. An excellent new approach to sharing the gospel in ways that make the good news seem truly good to our hearers. Immensely practical in helping show the cracks in alternative (especially secular) “gospels.”
- The Wisdom Pyramid, Brett McCracken. How do we grow in wisdom in a digital age? Where do we go to find knowledge and understanding? McCracken walks us through the dangers of our current climate, before laying out his “Wisdom Pyramid” (modeled on the Food Pyramid).
- Before You Lose Your Faith, ed. Ivan Mesa. A fascinating look at the phenomenon of “deconstruction.” Rather than dismiss the experience out of hand, the authors work to chart a better course—a deconstruction (or disenculturation) that leads to reconstructing our faith.
- The Lord’s Prayer, Thomas Watson. One of the great Puritan writers, Watson unpacks the Lord’s Prayer (following the Westminster Catechism) in splendid detail. A feast of wisdom, application, and glory.
Honorable Mentions: The Essential Jonathan Edwards, ed. Strachan and Sweeney. Pensees, Blaise Pascal. Reframation, Alan Hirsch. On the Apostolic Preaching, Irenaeus (Popular Patristics). Bedrock, Justin Bass. The Gospel According to Satan, Jared Wilson. Dorothy and Jack, Gina Dalfonzo. The Space Trilogy, C.S. Lewis. Small Preaching, Jonathan Pennington. Secular Creed, Rebecca McLaughlin. Corporate Worship, Matt Merker. Wise Blood, Flannery O’Connor. Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis. The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom. Not Forsaken, Jennifer Greenberg.